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Cowboys survive a 15-0 second-half run by the Outlaws as Jesse Sanchez makes two clutch free throws down the stretch

LON AUSTIN/CENTRAL OREGONIAN - Kevin Sanchez looks to pass the ball after driving into the middle of the lane in the second half of the Cowboys' victory over the Sisters Outlaws. Sanchez had six points as the Cowboys won 46-43.

The Crook County Cowboys did just enough to win Friday night, holding off the Sisters Outlaws in the season opening basketball game for both teams.

The visiting Cowboys survived a late Outlaw run as they edged Sisters 46-43.

"It was a hard-fought game, and I'm pleased with how both teams battled," Crook County head coach Darin Kessi said. "I think the thing that stood out the most to me was how we were relentless defensively, and we did a great job of weathering the storms."

The Outlaws started the scoring as Zach Anderson scored just seconds into the game.

Crook County immediately answered with a Shane Kessi three-pointer.

Sisters then scored two consecutive baskets to open up a 6-3 lead. However, Thaiden Mullan hit a three-pointer midway through the first period to tie the game.

Both teams went cold following Mullan's basket, and the first quarter ended with the Cowboys holding onto a narrow 8-7 lead.

The two teams continued to trade baskets in the second quarter.

However, a pair of threes by Mullan and a three from Kaleb Savage gave the Cowboys a 24-19 lead late in the half.

As time ran out in the half, Dominic Langley was called for a foul on what looked like a clean block on Jack Berg.

Berg was outside the three-point line so was awarded three shots on the play. The 6-1 senior calmly sank all three free throws as the Outlaws closed to within two points at 24-22 as the half ended.

The Outlaws scored first to open the second half, tying the game at 24-24.

Then, Mullan went down with a minor injury.

The Cowboys could have folded with their leading scorer from a year ago out of the game.

"Thaiden was playing well, and it was pretty impressive. We had a next-man-up mentality with the boys," Kessi said. "Everybody that got an opportunity to play stepped up and contributed. Even the guys that didn't get into the game had awesome energy and were helping their teammates out."

Instead, the team rallied, slowly building an 11-point lead.

When Kevin Sanchez hit a three pointer late in the third period, the Cowboys led 38-27 and looked like they were going to run away with the game.

Instead, the Outlaws battled back, scoring 15 consecutive points as they took a 42-38 lead with 4:32 left in the game.

"It was definitely a game of a lot of momentum shifts," Kessi said. They just kept coming after us. That's what Sisters does. But every time we needed to get a key stop, we made a key stop."

Trailing 42-38, the Cowboys made a turnover. However, the team was able to make a defensive stop, and Kevin Sanchez picked up the rebound.

After a Sisters foul, Sanchez hit a three-pointer, and the Cowboys were back within a point at 42-41.

A free throw by Brogan Petterson put the Outlaws up 43-41.

However, Sisters didn't score another point the remainder of the game.

Seconds later, the Cowboys took the lead for good on a Kessi three.

LON AUSTIN/CENTRAL OREGONIAN - Jordan Graydon goes up for a basket during the Cowboys' win over the Sisters Outlaws last Friday. Crook County has three road games this week, before playing their first home game on Tuesday, Dec. 11, when they host La Pine.On their next possession, the Outlaws missed a pair of shots before Crook County was finally able to snare the rebound.

On their ensuing possession, the Cowboys missed three shots before Jordan Graydon was fouled in the act of shooting.

Graydon missed both free throws, and the Outlaws got the ball back with 1:24 remaining.

Once again, the Cowboys got a key defensive stop as Kevin Sanchez picked up a steal.

After a timeout, the Cowboys had the ball out of bounds near half court when the Outlaws were called for a technical foul as Anderson hit the ball while the Cowboys were still holding it out of bounds.

Kevin Sanchez missed both technical foul shots, but the Cowboys still had possession of the ball.

Crook County struggled to inbound the ball, finally calling a time out.

When play resumed, the Cowboys committed a turnover, but the Outlaws were unable to capitalize, turning the ball back over to the Cowboys.

The Cowboys then tried to run out the clock, but with 15 seconds remaining, Sisters fouled Jesse Sanchez, who fought nerves to sink both his free throws, putting the Cowboys ahead 46-43.

"I was shaking," Sanchez said of the free throws. "The guy next to me was talking, and he was trying to mess me up, but I didn't listen to him. I blocked out all the noise and made the shots."

Petterson then missed a three at the buzzer as the Cowboys held on for the victory.

"It was really big," Shane Kessi said of the victory. "It shows a lot about the team, how the younger guys stepped up tonight. Jesse and Kevin came out, and they weren't fazed, and they played a heck of a game tonight."

The Outlaw's Anderson led all scorers with 16 points, while Berg added nine.

Savage led the Cowboys with 10, while Kessi and Mullan each had nine, and Kevin Sanchez finished with six.

"I'm proud of the effort, and the kids were excited with the win," coach Kessi said. "It starts with the work that we have been doing defensively in practice. That set the tone, and I think it showed tonight."

Shane Kessi agreed.

"We executed when we needed to, and we played solid defense," he added. "Like coach said, we don't just spend an hour and a half in practice working on defense for no reason."

The Cowboys have a busy week ahead, playing Madras (1-1) on Tuesday, North Salem (1-1) on Friday, and South Albany (2-0) on Saturday.

All three games are on the road.

Crook County 46, Sisters 43

Friday, November 30

At Sisters

Crook County 8 16 14 8 — 46

Sisters 7 15 8 13 — 43

Crook County — Kaleb Savage 10, Kessi 9, Mullan 9, K. Sanchez 6, Graydon 4, Langley 4, Bishop 2, J. Sanchez 2, Lowenbach, Humeston, Smith. Totals: 16 4-10 46.

Sisters —Zach Anderson 16, Berg 9, Waddell 7, Carhart 6, Eagan 4, Petterson 1, Weber, Jones, Scholl. Totals: 13 15-19 43.

Three-point goals — Crook County: Kessi 3, Mullan 3, Savage 2, K. Sanchez 2. Sisters: Berg 2.

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